My Wildly Irresponsible Prediction on Joint Cargo Aircraft

The C-27J will be announced the winner of the Joint Cargo Aircraft competition later this week. Put it in the bag.

Keep in mind that this is a blog and not a news story. I have no information that confirms the sentence above. If I did, you can trust that I’d save it for my employer: Flight International magazine.

This is purely informed speculation, akin to a sports analyst predicting who wins a game between two teams in which he or she has no personal stake. In other words, I’m guessing.

I also bear no grudges against the Raytheon/EADS CASA North America C295 team. Indeed, until a few days ago, I would have put my money on the pride of Spain’s aerospace industry. Them’s the breaks.

Some of you I’m sure will think I’m full of crap. But before you press the "send comment" button, please read why I’m predicting the C-27J has won. Here goes:

When the Senate Armed Services Committee marked up the Fiscal Year 2008 authorization bill a few weeks ago, it inserted language to make the US Air Force the purchasing authority for the Joint Cargo Aircraft program.

I interpret this move as the air force taking insurance. If the army selects the aircraft that the air force doesn’t like, the latter can ensure the former doesn’t get to buy it.

The air force participated — but did not get the decisive vote — in the source selection process. The process concluded in March, meaning the air force likely knows which aircraft won the competition. Following this logic, the SASC’s mark is an indication that the air force disapproves of the selected aircraft.

The question then becomes: which aircraft does the air force oppose?

For various reasons, I think the air force is opposed to the C-27J as too near a competitor in performance and mission to the prize of its entrenched tactical airlifter community: the C-130J. The C295, while an effective, proven aircraft, is not as likely to be confused as a rival to the venerable Hercules family, and therefore the aircraft the air force could support.

I admit: This is a prediction based purely on speculation. It’s more like a conversation over a beer or two than a professional observation. But, well, that’s kind of the point of having a blog. I might be completely wrong, and I hope Raytheon and EADS CASA North America will continue to return my phone calls. But this is my best guess.

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5 Responses to My Wildly Irresponsible Prediction on Joint Cargo Aircraft

  1. HerkEng 5 June, 2007 at 3:32 pm #

    Wow, that would not surprise me one bit.
    IMHO they never should have shitcanned the original C-27…like the older C-130s, the C-27 was a good aircraft and the pilots LOVED THEM. They were rugged and they were able to be worked on in the field with just typical tools…then Lockheed (as well as Boeing, L3, Alenia North America, and GMAS) got a bone up their ass and screwed the whole deal up….
    “They” (Bet your ass the USAF falls out of this deal and sticks it to the US Army) will buy the C-27J and it will have field problems just like its big step-brother the -130J.

    What else to buy? Well, if you just look at what was on the table, nothing. It was the best choice out of what was offered. But I have this, why not buy a small, tough plane that can handle the environment, and have its engines up and out of the way thus reducing wear and tear on the engines and props? How about an An-32? Yep, I said it… the bloody An-32. The only thing I do not like about the -32 for what it would be used for… the duckpiss green paint they use in the cockpit…but I could learn to love it.

    Its oldschool tough…and we already have guys well trained on them :)

  2. Stephen 5 June, 2007 at 4:16 pm #

    I love the way you think HerkEng. Indeed, I reported two years ago that Boeing had approached Antonov about offering a new version of the AN-72, the jet-powered Ukrainian rip-off of Boeing’s own YC-15 short-take-off-and-landing airlifter. Nothing came of it, but it wasn’t a bad idea. You may also want to take a look at the proposed Embraer E-390, as another possible alternative.

  3. HerkEng 5 June, 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    Is the Emb-390 the one that looks like the new Japanese C-X?

    Again, tough as all hell the An-72 would be… the only problem I see with using a turbo-fan instead of a turbo-prop for needed short field/high load weight is the fact that the engines need time to spool up…and when you are talking short field ops, your throttle is always changing…it is VERY hard to do with a turbo-fan powered aircraft. (This is where the c-17 fails too… the c-17 isn’t a bad aircraft…it just sucks at what they try to use it for.)

    This is where the turbo-prop shines. It has INSTANT power.

    Russian (whoops, Ukrainian) aircraft in USAF/USA markings :) = my wet dream.

    I know we are talking about the Joint cargo acft but I will go off on a tangent here.

    There is a real need for aircraft that can operate in very high/low, harsh environments with short fields. There is NO aircraft built right now that can handle the need. That is why there are strange companies like SNOW Aviation offering rebuilt modern OLD C-130E/Hs. Or L3 (with its SPAR Canadian effort) offering a modern touch up flight deck with the “old” engines n’ props. I see them doing well in the near future. a modern classic really. I can’t wait to see really what that C-130 AMP is all about (ok, tangent off)

  4. Stephen 7 June, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    E-390 is an Embraer 190 regional jet re-configured with high-wings and ramp door. It’s also a turbofan — the GE CF34. It’s still a concept, but Embraer seems very optimistic about it.

    Great point about the need for a true STOL. That really is what JCA is all about, but I presume you think both the C-27J and C-295 fall short?

  5. herkeng 7 June, 2007 at 7:57 pm #

    They are not “bad choices” It is much better than trying to make a high bypass turbofan fit in. They just can not hack it IMHO. Not right now. Not yet, I am sure though with time and enough of the smart people working on it that they will get it to work…but right now the king is still turboprop for approach speed, and take off power with much less spool up time needed.

    Again, out of those two…if I HAD to pick one, it would be the C-27J…But I would cuss a few times if I was in charge. :) They don’t ask me for my opinion…

    Now, with the prop fan (almost like the An-70…but not quite) I think that would be what I would try for the future. I wonder if they have a sep. reduction gear box so that the blades work independently of the actual jet engine? Anyone know?

    ~Herk

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